Discussions on Regulating the television content has ben going on since last one year after the government had put up a draft content regulations on the I&B Ministry’s website. The broadcasters had vehemently opposed any government regulatory control on them in the name of ‘freedom of press’ and decided to draft their own self regulations instead. Consequently News Broadcasters Association (NBA), an association of all news broadcasters formed last year for the purpose, drafted their own dispute redressal mechanism and a self regulatory code. Under these proposed regulations News Broadcasting Standards Dispute Redressal Authority would take care of any complaints.
Composition of the News Broadcasting Standards Disputes Redressal Authority
The Authority shall consist of a Chairperson being an eminent jurist and six other Members nominated by the Board of NBA by a majority decision.
Members of the Authority shall comprise 3 (three) eminent editors employed with a broadcaster, 3 (three) persons having special knowledge and/or practical experience in the field of law, education, medicine, science, literature, public administration, consumer affairs, environment, human psychology and/or culture.
Provided that no person being a Member of the Authority shall participate in any adjudication relating to a dispute in which such person shall have any direct involvement or commercial interest or in which such Member shall be interested as an agent or representative of any broadcaster, television journalist and/or news agency as the case may be;
Term of Office of Chairperson and Members
The Chairperson and other Members shall hold office for a period of 2 (two) years ;
Provided that the Chairperson shall continue to hold office until the Authority is reconstituted in accordance with the provisions of the NBA rules or for a period of 6 (six) months whichever is earlier.
Provided also that where a person nominated as a Member of the Authority has a charge framed against him in relation to a serious criminal offence or is otherwise found unfit to hold office as Member of the Authority, the NBA may, by a decision of its Board remove such person from being Member and thereupon, such Member shall forthwith cease to be a Member of the Authority.
A Member nominated in his capacity of an eminent editor / producer employed with a broadcaster shall cease to be a Member if he ceases to be editor / producer employed with such broadcaster.
A Member shall be deemed to have vacated his seat if he is, in the opinion of the Chairperson, absent without sufficient cause, from three consecutive meetings of the Authority.
A Member retiring or whose membership otherwise ceases as above (except by reason of a warning, admonition, censure, disapproval, sanction and/or fine having been issued against him by the Authority and/or having been removed by the Authority under these Regulations) shall be eligible for re-nomination for not more than one additional term.
Meetings of the Authority
The Authority shall meet at least once in 2 (two) months, at such time/s and place/s in Delhi/New Delhi Quorum of such meetings shall be at least 4 (four) members, including Chairperson.
Objects and functions of the Authority
The objects of the Authority shall be to entertain and decide complaints against or in respect of broadcasters, television journalists and/or news agencies in so far as these relate to the content of any broadcast.
In discharging its function of adjudicating upon complaints as aforesaid the Authority shall act consistently with the following precepts :
• Maintaining and improving the standards of broadcast, and maintaining the independence of broadcasters, television journalists and/or news agencies ;
• Ensuring compliance by broadcasters, television journalists and news agencies with the Code of Conduct and adherence by the said persons to high professional standards;
• Ensuring the maintenance of high standards of public taste and fostering a due sense of both the rights and responsibilities of citizens;
• Fostering and encouraging the growth of a sense of responsibility and public service among all those engaged in and associated with the profession of television journalism and business of broadcasting ;
• Keeping under review and scrutiny any developments likely to or having the tendency to restrict the gathering, supply and dissemination of news of public interest and importance;
• Such other aspects as may be incidental, consequential, related and/or otherwise materially concerned with the above precepts.
Powers of Authority
Where, on receipt of a complaint made to it or otherwise, the Authority has reason to believe that a broadcaster, television journalist and/or news agency has violated or offended against the Code of Conduct or that a television journalist has committed any professional misconduct in relation to a broadcast, the Authority may, after giving the broadcaster, television journalist or news agency concerned an opportunity of being heard, hold an inquiry in such manner as is provided by these Regulations and, if it is satisfied that it is necessary so to do, it may, for reasons to be recorded in writing, warn, admonish, censure, express disapproval against and/or impose a fine upon the broadcaster, television journalist and/or news agency and/or recommend to the concerned governmental authority for suspension / revocation of license / accreditation of such broadcaster, television journalist and/or news agency ;
The fine imposed by the Authority shall not exceed Rs. 1,00,000/- and such fine shall be recovered from the concerned broadcaster and/or news agency ;
The Authority may not take cognizance of a complaint if, in the opinion of the Chairperson, there is no sufficient ground for holding an inquiry.
If the Authority is of the opinion that it is necessary or expedient in the public interest so to do, it may direct any broadcaster, television journalist and/or news agency to cause to be published through a press release in such newspaper or other periodical and/or on such website, information relating to any inquiry conducted against the broadcaster, television journalist or news agency as the Authority decides including the warning, admonition, censure, disapproval issued and/or fine imposed and any other particulars relating to the proceedings as the Authority thinks fit ; and the broadcaster, television journalist and news agency shall comply with directions ;
The Authority shall publish a summary of every inquiry conducted by it on its website and in its Annual Report and newsletter published from time to time ;
Nothing in Regulation shall be deemed to empower the Authority to hold an inquiry into any matter in respect of which any proceeding is pending in a Court of law.
For the purposes of adjudicating upon any complaint or holding any inquiry under these Regulations, the Authority shall have the power of :
a) Summoning persons and examining them and requiring the production and inspection of documents;
b) Receiving evidence ;
c) Requisitioning any source of information records or copies thereof from any broadcaster, television journalist or news agency, including in particular the footage (both edited and unedited) of any broadcast.
The Authority shall, on the filing of complaints and for the purposes of performing its functions under these Regulations, levy fee of Rs. 1,000/- per complaint upon the complainant, in such manner as the Authority may prescribe ; and the Authority shall also have the power to impose costs not exceeding Rs. 10,000/- (Rupees Ten Thousand Only) in favour of or against complainants.
No suit or other legal proceeding shall lie against the Authority, the Chairperson or any Member/s thereof or any person acting under the direction of the Authority in respect of anything which is done or intended to done in good faith under these Regulations.
No suit or other legal proceeding shall lie against any broadcaster, television journalist or news agency in respect of the broadcast of any matter under or in compliance of the orders/directions the Authority.
Procedure for dealing with Complaints
Contents of Complaint: Any complaint made to the Authority in respect of or against a broadcaster, television journalist and/or news agency:
a) shall state the name and address of the broadcaster, television journalist and/or news agency, against which or against whom the complaint is preferred ;
b) shall state the time of the broadcast alongwith the substance of the contents of the broadcast and/or the text of the broadcast complained of (if such text be available) and the details of the misconduct complained of ;
c) shall also include such other particulars as are relevant to the subject-matter of the complaint;
d) shall state in what manner the broadcast violates or offends against the Code of Conduct and/or is otherwise objectionable ;
e) shall enclose a copy of the letter written by the complainant to the broadcaster, television journalist and/or news agency drawing the attention of the broadcaster, television journalist and/or news agency, as the case may be, to the subject matter of the complaint stating the complainant’s grievances alongwith reasons therefor together with a copy of the reply, if any, received by the complainant. It shall be encumbent upon the complainant to give to the broadcaster, television journalist and/or news agency at least 30 (thirty) days to respond to the letter of complaint written by the complainant, failing which the Authority shall not entertain any complaint.
f) complaint may be made in English or Hindi ; and if any documents in support thereof are in the vernacular, true translations thereof in English or Hindi must be filed alongwith the complaint.
The Authority shall not entertain any complaint unless before filing the complaint before the Authority, the complainant has in writing drawn the attention of the broadcaster, television journalist and the concern persons.
A complaint shall be filed before the Authority within 60 (sixty) days of the first broadcast of the matter complained of ; and in the case of a complaint relating to any professional misconduct, within 60 (sixty) days of the date the complainant first learned of the professional misconduct complained of ;
If a complaint is presented after the expiration of the period provided therefor, the Authority may, if it is satisfied that the complainant has acted diligently and that the delay in filing the complaint within the prescribed period has been caused for reasons not of the complaint’s making and/or for other sufficient cause, condone the delay and entertain a complaint ;
Notwithstanding anything contained elsewhere in these Regulations, the Authority shall in writing inform any broadcaster, television journalist and/or news agency to retain and preserve records of any broadcast that may be subject matter of a complaint, within 90 (ninety) days of first broadcast, failing which a broadcaster, television journalist and/or news agency shall be under no obligation to retain or preserve such records.
In every case the Complainant shall place all relevant and material facts before the Authority;
The complainant shall, at the foot of the complaint, make and subscribe a declaration to the effect:
• That the facts stated in the complaint are true and correct to the best of the complainant’s knowledge and belief ;
• That the complainant has placed all relevant facts before the Authority and has not concealed any material facts ;
• That no proceedings are pending in any Court of law in respect of the subject matter complained of before the Authority ; and
• That the complainant shall inform the Authority forthwith if during the pendency of the inquiry before the Authority the matter alleged in the complaint becomes the subject-matter of any proceedings in a Court of law.
Where a complainant does not comply with the requirements of these Regulations, the Chairperson may return the complaint by any mode of recorded delivery, asking the complainant to bring it in conformity with such requirements and re-present it within such time as the Authority may grant.
Not later than 30 (thirty) days from the date of receipt of a complaint complete in all respects, under the directions of the Chairperson, a copy thereof shall be sent to the broadcaster, television journalist and/or news agency against which or whom the complaint has been made, along with a notice requiring the broadcaster, television journalist, and/or news agency, as the case may be, to show cause why action should not be taken against it under these Regulations giving to the television channel a period of 30 (thirty) days to respond to such show cause notice;
In appropriate cases the Chairperson shall have the discretion to extend time for the issuance of notice and/or for response as aforesaid .
The Chairperson may decide not to issue a notice to show cause to a broadcaster, television journalist and/or news agency or any of them, where, in his opinion, there is no sufficient ground for holding an inquiry ; and the Authority at its next meeting shall be apprised by the Chairperson of the reasons for his decision not to issue notice and the Authority may then pass such orders as it deems fit upon such complaint.
The notice so issued alongwith a complete copy of the complaint and all documents relied upon by the complainant, shall be sent to the broadcaster, television journalist and/or news agency, by any mode of recorded delivery, at the address/es furnished in the complaint.
Notice of the time, date and place of hearing shall be served upon the complainant as well as on the broadcaster, television journalist and/or news agency, as the case may be, and shall be sent to them by any mode of recorded delivery.
The broadcaster, television journalist and/or agency against which or whom the complaint is made may, within 30 (thirty) days from the date of service of the notice alongwith a complete copy of the complaint and all documents relied upon by the complainant or within such further time as may be granted by the Chairperson upon application in this behalf, submit a written statement to the Authority in reply to the complaint and send a copy of such written statement to the complainant by any mode of recorded delivery.
After receipt of the complaint or written statement, the Chairperson may, if he considers necessary, call for any further information, written statement particulars or documents either from the complainant or the respondent-broadcaster, television journalist or news agency, as the case may be, in order to clarify matters appearing in or arising from the complaint.
Where at any time in the course of the inquiry into the complaint it appears to the Authority that the subject-matter of the complaint is substantially the same as, or has been covered by, any former complaint dealt with by the Authority under these regulations, the Authority shall hear the complainant, if he desires to be heard and also if the Authority considers it necessary, the broadcaster, television journalist and/or news agency, as the case may be, and pass such orders or directions as it may consider necessary and the same shall be duly communicated to the parties.
If during any inquiry being conducted by the Authority the complainant fails to appear at any hearing without sufficient cause, the Authority may dismiss the complaint ; and if the respondent-broadcaster, television journalist or news agency fails to appear at any hearing without sufficient cause, the Authority may proceed to decide the complaint ex parte as against the party so failing to appear.
However, if within 30 (thirty) days of dismissal of a complaint or the passing of any ex parte orders/directions, a party aggrieved thereby applies to the Authority to restore the complaint or set-aside the ex parte orders/directions so passed and shows sufficient cause for its previous non-appearance, the Authority may restore the complaint or set-aside the ex parte orders/directions and decide the matter / decide the matter afresh.
At the inquiry before the Authority parties shall be entitled to adduce relevant evidence, oral and documentary, and make submissions in support of their contentions.
At the close of an inquiry the Authority shall record its findings upon the allegations contained in the complaint together with its reasons therefor and pass such orders and directions as provided under these Regulations as it may deem fit.
Every case shall be determined as per the majority view of the Members and the Chairperson’s view shall have the same weightage as that of any Member. Provided that no Member shall take part in the proceedings and/or decision of any complaint in which such Member has any direct involvement or commercial interest or in which such Member is interested as an agent or representative of any broadcaster, television journalist and/or news agency as the case may be and such Member shall opt-out of such proceedings.
If any Member or Members have to opt-out as aforesaid, the NBA shall forthwith upon such occurrence nominate a substitute Member or Members to fill-up the vacancy for a particular inquiry.
The orders / directions of the Authority shall be communicated in writing to the parties to the case and shall also be duly publicized as may be directed by the Authority, including on the NBA website, Annual Report and NBA newsletter.
In any inquiry under these Regulations a party to the proceedings may appear in person or be represented by Counsel or by a duly authorised representative.
The Authority shall have the power to regulate its own procedure in respect of any matter for which no provision or inadequate provision is made in these Regulations and shall also have the power in appropriate cases to hold inquiries in camera.
Notwithstanding anything contained elsewhere in these Regulations, any inquiry commenced under these Regulations shall be completed within a maximum period of 6 (six) months from the date of receipt of the complaint.
The Authority may suo motu initiate proceedings and issue notice or, as the case may be, take action in respect of any matter which falls within the mischief contemplated in these Regulations or relating to any matter falling within or arising from the Code of Conduct, and in such case all other procedures prescribed herein shall, mutatis mutandis, be followed as if such proceedings were a complaint.